If you’ve ever started a new exercise plan or diet, you’ve probably been told many times that consistency is the key to achieving your goals. Scientists have discovered for the first time that sticking to a daily routine when you exercise can be just as important for bone and joint health.
A University of Manchester study looked at the body’s internal clock to see how exercising at the same time of day could potentially protect against bone and joint deterioration, protecting against injury and preventing age-related physical decline and related conditions such as arthritis. .
“Among the many health challenges, age-related musculoskeletal decline and its adverse consequences place a great burden on individuals,” said senior author Judith Hoiland and a spine/intervertebral disc specialist at the University of Manchester. We have identified a novel clock mechanism underlying skeletal aging, which could have far-reaching implications for understanding frailty and designing more effective treatment timing of exercise and physiotherapy to maintain good skeletal health and mobility.
Essentially, our behavior and physiological patterns are governed to some extent by the 24-hour circadian clock, which acts from our suprachiasmatic nucleus in the hypothalamus to environmental cues such as light, darkness, and hunger.
“The 24-hour daily cycle that our bodies follow, such as our core temperature falling when we sleep and our blood pressure rising at certain times of the day, is known as our circadian rhythm,” said Lucy Donaldson, director of research and health intelligence at collaborative organization Versus Arthritis There are processes in our body that maintain this rhythm, known as ‘clocks’, all of which are linked to our central body clock in the brain.
Studies have shown that if those other clocks are out of sync with our central timekeeper, it poses a greater risk of many health conditions, including cardiovascular disease. Research suggests that fat cells have their own biological clock, and the cardiovascular system may explain the prevalence of morning heart attacks.
Now, for the first time, researchers at the University of Manchester have unlocked the mechanisms that make the intervertebral disc and cartilage clock tick. Without nerves or a blood supply, until now it was not entirely clear that the brain’s circadian timing was able to synchronize with these unique body clocks.
In fact, we have identified a new mechanism for understanding how our body clocks are synchronized with the external environment, said Professor King-Jun Meng from the University of Manchester. “Clocks have evolved to prepare you for predictable rhythmic changes in the environment.”
And there it is, in the predictable rhythmic changes that are the key to how exercise at the same time can protect against the decline of the musculoskeletal system.
Our results showed that physical activity in the morning, associated with daily sleep/wake cycle patterns, transmits timing information from the brain’s light-sensitive central clock to weight-bearing skeletal tissues, Meng said. In fact, it tells your skeletal system that it’s time to wake up.
“But when this alignment is out of whack with the brain, then, as in other organs and tissues, it can lead to adverse effects on your physical health. If you’re constantly changing the timing of your exercise, you may be more prone to this desynchronization.”
In a mouse model, scientists forced mice to exercise on a treadmill during what would normally be their resting time to show how unpredictable activity leads to accelerated bone and cartilage deterioration.
“As we stand and move throughout the day, water is squeezed out of the intervertebral discs in our spine, as well as out of the cartilage in our hips and knees, making us a little shorter by the end of the day,” said lead author Michal Dudek, from the University of Manchester. “This causes an increase in tissue osmolarity because the same amount of mineral is now dissolved in less water so the actual concentration increases.” Cells sense this change in osmolarity and synchronize clocks within these skeletal tissues.
“Water returns at night when we rest and osmolarity decreases, although this direction of change did not affect the clock,” he added.
Although the mouse model, joint and disc composition, as well as other physiological aspects, suggest that a similar result could be seen in a human trial. And the result was clear: exercising at the same time every day allows the systems to align and the circadian clock mechanisms to best affect the bones and joints.
“This early research in mice explores the link between local clocks in articular cartilage and the central body clock in the brain, which the results suggest contribute to how quickly our bones and cartilage deteriorate over time,” Donaldson said. The findings show that when these clocks are out of sync , our bones and cartilage break down faster, but when they are aligned, the process slows down. Exercising at certain times of the day helps keep the clocks in sync and can slow the progression of arthritis.
However, Meng also noted that even if you mix it up when you exercise, but establish some kind of pattern overall, your body clocks will eventually align with each other and you’ll adapt to it.
And our work showed that the clocks in the skeletal tissues of older animals still respond to daily exercise patterns, he added. As such, walking groups organized for older people may be more beneficial to their health if they occur at a similar time each day.
It could also help international athletes, who often cross time zones, better protect themselves from injury.
Exercise, of course, has many well-studied health benefits, including a direct link to bone health, with just a 3% improvement reducing hip fracture rates by 45% in older adults.
“We already know that exercise is one of the best ways to reduce the pain and impact of arthritis, and this very early research shows that exercising at certain times of the day may have additional benefits for people with arthritis,” Donaldson said. This is an important finding because it could help us develop more targeted treatments for musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis using exercise and physical activity.
The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.
Source: University of Manchester
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